As promised in my previous post (link) today i'm gonna write about first workshop in my Philosophy for elders program.
Our first meeting, and i believe this was first time that Philosophy for elders was held in Croatia, took place just few hours ago, in small village of Bijelo Brdo, Croatia. Workshop participants were retired senior citizens from different professions and backgrounds: policeman, graphic designer, teacher, truck driver, farmer and so on. They all were very cooperative and interested in our topic.
For our first meeting i chose a workshop based on Peter Harteloh's method of group philosophical consultations. Basic idea for this workshop is to develop questioning skills, as very important skill for any form of philosophical inquiry. This is where participants learn how to form meaningful and direct questions, actively listen to each other and develop a further sense for questioning the questions. Workshop begins with reading a zen riddle (koan), after which participants have to ask only one question about the story. P. Harteloh calls it The Ultimate Question, because he compared it with a question first asked by philosopher after his client in philosophical consultations has explained their problem. This first question is crucial. It shows how carefully you listened the story and what seems to be the problem you are dealing with within the story, what bothers you most. The thing is that only one participant can ask their question out loud, only if they think that they came up with the best question within the group. After that, everything comes down to facilitating the group. They have the task of questioning the (ultimate) question, asked by this one participant who dared to think their question was the best.
Of course, there are many other things within this workshop, but i would rather just shortly reflect on participants and their reactions to concept of philosophizing. At first, as i sat in that room at 5:10 pm with only three people who showed up on time, i had my doubts about the whole thing and i actually thought that it wouldn't work, but 10 minutes later, the room was full and i found myself explaining to people much, much older than me what philosophy is. As the workshop went on, i felt more secure and i got a feeling that they really liked this opportunity to discuss philosophically. The questions they asked were really good and made a lot of sense, and almost all of them were very active and opened. Even this one man, who forgot his hearing aid, talked loudly all the time so he can hear himself and who didn't maybe hear anything the rest of the group was saying (we had a good laugh, though), even he wrote down a mini Bible and was smiling at the end with a promise that he won't forget the aid next time. The rest of the group also gave a good feedback and expressed their interest in rest of the workshops, eager to hear what is next workshop going to be about and when is the next time we will meet. I think that they felt good with my role of facilitator, giving them little space, once in a while, for discussion, but we all agreed that they have problems with listening to each other without interruptions, which is something we surely will work on in future. Still, I also couldn't be happier with the group and with their engagement, and after one man stated that philosophical approach truly helps to exercise his mind, on which everyone else agreed, i am more and more certain that this program will prove that philosophy can be useful and that it can be done by anyone who is only willing to.